Greensburg march raises awareness about domestic, sexual violence
State Rep. Eric Nelson has four daughters, and he’s pretty sure all of them placed bets on when he’d take a spill during Saturday’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, hosted by the Blackburn Center in Greensburg.
“Let’s hope 10 minutes is enough to get me prepared,” Nelson said as he took a wobbly practice stroll around St. Clair Park in a pair of high heels before the march got underway.
The event, now in its ninth year, is part of the International Men’s March to End Sexual Assault, Rape and Gender Violence, which is aimed at raising awareness about the incidence of domestic and sexual violence.
Men are invited to walk in women’s high-heeled shoes as they join their voices with women in speaking out against the social norms and attitudes that perpetuate domestic and sexual violence.
Blackburn Center Executive Director Ann Emmerling said officials are expecting their biggest turnout yet.
“I think the increased discussion about these issues, the #MeToo movement and other issues has gotten more people involved,” Emmerling said. “And we always do more outreach each year to try and get more people walking.”
About 1,100 people were part of last year’s walk, and Emmerling expects a larger number this year. With a beautiful, sunny day overhead, it was a far cry from the event’s start in 2011, when participants trudged through winter weather at Lynch Field.
“If you think it’s tough to walk a mile in heels when it’s 55 degrees and sunny, try doing it in the snow,” event emcee and University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg professor Tim Holler said.
And while it was certainly amusing to see members of the Seton Hill Griffins football team walking down Maple Street in fire-engine-red high heels, the shoes are meant to be a reminder of the metaphorical road women walk when it comes to sexual harassment, gender violence and sexual assault.
Holler called out the names of five women, victims of assault, who were memorialized by teams walking at the event.
He encouraged all men to “take a risk; be willing to say the hard thing.”
“Let’s make this a world where we use our voices to challenge stereotypes,” he said.
Len Caric, 60, of Pittsburgh’s South Side, is a board member at the Blackburn Center and has volunteered there since 1998. He asked everyone in attendance to be mindful if a victim of assault or violence approaches them.
“Ask them to think about seeking support,” Caric said. “Because you might be the only person they choose to talk with.”
Big Lots officials are also looking to bring awareness to the Blackburn Center’s mission and offer support as they prepare to open a new location in Mt. Pleasant April 26.
From the store’s grand opening through June 8, Big Lots will donate $5 to the center each time a BIG Rewards Loyalty member redeems a reward at the Mt. Pleasant store.
“They reached out to us, which is wonderful,” Emmerling said. “They definitely want to be a part of bringing attention to these issues.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 8:30 a.m. April 26 at the new store, 100 Crossroads Plaza in Mt. Pleasant.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .